"The Daytime Emmy Awards" show hasn't always been a valuable network property. Until last year, when it aired in prime time, it had an erratic broadcast history and was regarded as something of an unwanted in-law to (dare we say it?) The Real Emmys, which honor prime-time shows.
Now in its 19th year, "The Daytime Emmys" has emanated from hotel banquet rooms, dingy TV studios, even a sightseeing boat. Typically, it has aired in the afternoon, or not at all, as was the case as recently as 1986 and '87.
But since bringing in a knockout prime time Nielsen score last year that outranked that other Emmy show, the daytime fest has come into its own.
Among the factors in the show's improved status is the saga of "All My Children's" Susan Lucci, a 12-time loser for Outstanding Lead Actress who is nominated again this year.
Ms. Lucci and Phil Donahue will be the hosts for the live broadcast, airing tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC from the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Manhattan.
(Channel 2 has pre-empted the show for an Orioles game, but WRC Channel 4 from Washington will air the program.)
The late June broadcast date comes amid what is typically one of the networks' less creative periods.
That, and its escapist, perfect-for-summer content, combine to virtually guarantee a large audience.
Of the 52 categories voted on by members of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, only 16 will be televised. (Remaining awards in mostly technical categories were to be given earlier in a Los Angeles ceremony.)
Of course, the soaps will dominate tonight's broadcast with six actor-actress categories, as well as awards for writing, directing and best drama.
Talk show hosts and their shows also will compete, as will children's programs and game shows.
The popularity of The Daytime Emmy Awards has increased along with the programming it honors. Soaps continue to earn the critical acclaim that eluded the genre when it played primarily to homemakers years ago.
Talk shows also have proliferated in recent years, making celebrities out of hosts who vie against one another just as big-name actors do.
Judging is done by peers, the more than 300 members of the Academy who work on daytime shows. In March they sifted through hundreds of written entry forms, from which the nominees were named.
The final judging, also by peers, was held over two separate weekends in New York and Los Angeles, during which Academy members analyzed taped performances of the finalists.
The prestige category is, as always, Outstanding Lead Actress. Ms. Lucci once again seems a frontrunner. Only castmate Kate Collins, who plays the dual role of Natalie/Janet, seemed to stand in Ms. Lucci's way this year, but Ms. Collins is not a nominee.
Ms. Lucci has had another solid season as Erica Kane, highlighted by her unfulfilled romance with Jack Montgomery (Walt Willey). Only Jessica Tuck, who lingered and died so dramatically as Megan on "One Life To Live," poses a challenge.
The category is filled out by Erika Slezak (Victoria, "One Life To Live"), Jeanne Cooper (Katherine, "The Young and The Restless") and Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda, "As The World Turns").
Ms. Lucci's male counterparts are David Canary (Adam/Stuart, "All My Children"), Peter Bergman (Jack, "The Young and The Restless"), A Martinez (Cruz, "Santa Barbara") and Nicolas Coster (Lionel, "Santa Barbara"). But the favorite is surely Michael Zaslow (Roger, "Guiding Light").
For best soap, "All My Children" should handily edge "As The World Turns," "Guiding Light" and "The Young and The Restless," since it is the most consistently solid of the four.
The Outstanding Younger Actor and Actress classifications, once designated to recognize child actors, now includes teens and actors in the their early 20s.
The age restriction for that category is now 25 and younger, which has essentially created a two-tiered competition that protects veterans from upstart competition.
For top Talk/Service show, the logical vote goes to "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee." The two are the quickest wits on TV, and their fresh unscripted chat is what good talk is all about.